“It Follows” Is As Beautiful As It Is Terrifying!
by Danny S. Warren
It’s always a gamble when a fresh horror film hits the screens. We, as an audience, have been burned many times by new ideas that failed to deliver. Our theaters have been bombarded by reboots, remakes, and sequels; whose stench of desperate money-grabbing left us in a bubble of mediocrity. It has felt for a long time that horror fans older than twelve have been abandoned by the industry. Why deliver a smart and artistic horror film when your target audience are only going to the theater to explore the world of dating? You could put any old schlock on the screen and still have a decent opening weekend.
Then a horror movie comes along that throws out the book of trope and delivers unto us genuine terror with an artist’s eye.
Trying to explain the plot of It Follows is difficult to do without making it sound ridiculous, but bear with me. After a sexual encounter with a boy she just met, Jay Height (Maika Monroe) is rendered unconscious by her beau and wakes up tied to a wheel chair in an abandoned parking lot. He explains to her that, by having sex, he has passed on a deadly curse. An entity is coming to kill her, it can look like anyone, it cannot be stopped, and the only way to get rid of it is to have relations with someone else, who in turn must keep it going. When the entity comes for her, her date lets her go with some chilling advice: the thing is slow, but it will never stop and she should sleep with someone immediately and tell them to do the same.
In the hands of anyone else, the whole thing would be laughable; but under the care of writer/director David Robert Mitchell, it is a shining example of how to make a genuine artistic horror film that is both eloquent and nail biting. It can be a little awkward at first. In fact, the first couple of scenes after the prologue left me a little confused on the tone Mitchell was going for, but for a patient fan of both film and horror, it pays off. Through the clever use of jump cuts and the use of tracking and panning shots to keep the camera moving, the director creates slow crippling tension while giving the illusion that the film is moving at a fast pace. Instead of using comedic relief, Mitchell uses jump scares to relieve the tension without letting us forget that we are in a horror movie. The art house feel teamed with terrific acting from its young and mostly inexperienced cast and an amazing retro 80’s score by Disasterpiece keeps you glued to the screen right until the end.
The film isn’t without its flaws, however, but thankfully they are minor. Long silent scenes can make the film feel awkward at times and the mix of retro (black and white horror films being watched on old television sets with rabbit ears, characters going to the theater to see Hitchcock’s Charade) with the modernly weird (a character reads on a smart phone-like device shaped like a sea shell, making her appear to be staring into her birth control container) can be confusing so early in the film. The biggest blemish on this otherwise perfect movie, though, is the climatic standoff at a public pool that made absolutely no sense. The characters never explain their plan, making their actions seem idiotic and without direction. Thankfully the rest of the movie is so well done, that even the pool scene can be forgiven.
Although the film could have been heavy handed in forcing the dangers of sexual promiscuity down our throats, a tactic commonly used in horror films, it does not. And that, readers, is Robert David Mitchell’s compliment to all for us. Instead of assuming we are all tweens and teens, the film-maker realizes its true audience is familiar with the genre and makes no effort to pander to what would normally be its biggest well of cash. This is a smart film for the smart viewer and it earns a well-deserved 4.5 out of 5 skulls.